@MarkAmesExiled My extended twitter essay on this is now in one convenient spot on storify: https://t.co/IUXj0B8oDk
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) October 27, 2014
As Lily Tomlin said, “I try to be cynical, but you just can’t keep up.” From today’s NYTimes:
In the decades after World War II, the C.I.A. and other United States agencies employed at least a thousand Nazis as Cold War spies and informants and, as recently as the 1990s, concealed the government’s ties to some still living in America, newly disclosed records and interviews show.
At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the F.B.I. and Allen Dulles at the C.I.A. aggressively recruited onetime Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet “assets,” declassified records show. They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed what one official called “moral lapses” in their service to the Third Reich.
The agency hired one former SS officer as a spy in the 1950s, for instance, even after concluding he was probably guilty of “minor war crimes.” …
Evidence of the government’s links to Nazi spies began emerging publicly in the 1970s. But thousands of records from declassified files, Freedom of Information Act requests and other sources, together with interviews with scores of current and former government officials, show that the government’s recruitment of Nazis ran far deeper than previously known and that officials sought to conceal those ties for at least a half-century after the war…
Some spies for the United States had worked at the highest levels for the Nazis.
One SS officer, Otto von Bolschwing, was a mentor and top aide to Adolf Eichmann, architect of the “Final Solution,” and wrote policy papers on how to terrorize Jews.
Yet after the war, the C.I.A. not only hired him as a spy in Europe, but relocated him and his family to New York City in 1954, records show. The move was seen as a “a reward for his loyal postwar service and in view of the innocuousness of his [Nazi] party activities,” the agency wrote.
His son, Gus von Bolschwing, who learned many years later of his father’s ties to the Nazis, sees the relationship between the spy agency and his father as one of mutual convenience forged by the Cold War.
“They used him, and he used them,” Gus von Bolschwing, now 75, said in an interview. “It shouldn’t have happened. He never should have been admitted to the United States. It wasn’t consistent with our values as a country.”…
The wide use of Nazi spies grew out of a Cold War mentality shared by two titans of intelligence in the 1950s: Mr. Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, and Mr. Dulles, the C.I.A. director.
Mr. Dulles believed “moderate” Nazis might “be useful” to America, records show. Mr. Hoover, for his part, personally approved some ex-Nazis as informants and dismissed accusations of their wartime atrocities as Soviet propaganda.
In 1968, Mr. Hoover authorized the F.B.I. to wiretap a left-wing journalist who wrote critical stories about Nazis in America, internal records show. Mr. Hoover declared the journalist, Charles Allen, a potential threat to national security.
John Fox, the bureau’s chief historian, said: “In hindsight, it is clear that Hoover, and by extension the F.B.I., was shortsighted in dismissing evidence of ties between recent German and East European immigrants and Nazi war crimes. It should be remembered, though, that this was at the peak of Cold War tensions.”
The C.I.A. declined to comment for this article…
SON OF A…
I hear we also allied with Stalin to defeat the Nazis.
I can’t say I would have completely foresworn any use of Nazis spies during the cold war.
Major Major Major Major
Well, as long as people like J. Edgar Hoover were in charge, I’m sure it was all on the up-and-up.
The Other Chuck
Seems to me our values were “beat the commies at any cost”, so I’m not seeing the inconsistency there. Shocking as it is, I’d still want to know how many of those thousand were people like Bolschwing as opposed to say, von Braun.
An interesting bit of history, but really nothing new. Often difference between the bad and the good is not as stark as we might hope.
I don’t find this terribly surprising, weren’t there some German physicists who had connections to the Third Reich allowed to immigrate?
It’s one of those classic Cold War problems — if the enemy of my enemy is my friend, then as soon as the war ends, all my bestest friends are (former-ish) Nazis, because it’s not like Stalin is going to continue to be our friend. Plus, as I’ve said before, Jim Crow America had more in common with the Nazis than we care to admit these days.
We made some major, major fuckups in the name of “anti-Communism.” Vietnam War, anyone? How about thinking that the Islamic revolutionaries in Iran were Communists in disguise? That misconception has worked out well for us over the past 30 years.
Reagan didn’t have Teflon, Truman did.
Guy never gets creds for his monster work.
Isn’t this old news?
“1,000 Nazis” sounds like the worst band name ever.
Wernher Von Braun, for one. Developer of the V-2 rocket. There’s even a line referencing it (a bit subtly) in The Right Stuff, when an American scientist says, “Our Germans are better than their Germans,” contrasting the Nazis that the Americans were able to get to the ones the Soviets had.
Major Major Major Major
@Mnemosyne: I love that tom Lehrer song. “Once a rocket’s up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department, says Werner Von Braun”
And in other breaking news … President Eisenhower plans to bring a Bill to create an interstate highway system to Congress.
@Mnemosyne: A large segment of the American political establishment was highly sympathetic to the Nazis and their ideology right up to the US entry into WWII when they were obliged to keep their feelings to themselves.
@Mnemosyne: We offered better fringe benefits.
Anyone care to predict how far that same proposal would get in today’s environment?
Early SF units were stocked with ex-nazis
Mike in NC
@Mnemosyne: Starting in 1945 both the Soviet and American governments began recruiting German scientists and engineers. The U.S. project was called Operation Paperclip.
Considering we put a Nazi in charge of the manned landing on the moon, back in the 1960’s, and named some a science center after him, I cannot seem to get outraged by this new revelation.
@Raven: That must be why Pat Lang rarely mentions his Hessian relatives.
From the article, quoted at top: Evidence of the government’s links to Nazi spies began emerging publicly in the 1970s. But thousands of records from declassified files, Freedom of Information Act requests and other sources, together with interviews with scores of current and former government officials, show that the government’s recruitment of Nazis ran far deeper than previously known and that officials sought to conceal those ties for at least a half-century after the war…
Purist that I am, I think there’s an extra degree of reprehensibility beyond “Let’s recruit Nazi scientists doing physics” to “Let’s recruit Nazi propagandists because, y’know, we all hate the Commies.”
If nothing else, we owe our posterity (assuming there is such) whatever honest reckoning we can make at this late date.
It’s not just a Cold War problem. Aren’t we dealing with this re: Syria and ISIS and Iran and Syrian rebels and so forth right now? Who are “friends” and who are “enemies”?
BTW…Once a week Dalia Lithwick records a podcast about the Supreme Court. This week’s edition spend time on Obama’s judicial philosophy (among other topics). T’was most informative.
In addition to the link, it is also available through iTunes, etc.
What’s worst about this story is we now know that a large portion of Reinhard Gehlen’s organization (from the “Fremde Heere Ost” of the Wehrmacht) were compromised by Soviet intelligence. Most of the “intelligence” we got from them was carefully prepared for our consumption by the NKVD. Typical Hoover efficiency: wrong idea, wrong people, wrong targets.
The fact that it’s Nazis is just the crap topping on a stupid sundae.
We go to the Moon with the Germans we have, not that we wished we had.
Anyone ever heard of Klaus Barbie? Werner Von Braun? I guess the new thing is News McNuggets of ancient history for the teeming hordes.
Also too Arthur Rudolph (recipient of two medals from NASA), among others.
The Wikipedia page linked above steers clear of using the accurate term slave labor, instead soft-pedaling the workers on Rudolph’s project only as “prisoners.”
@Major Major Major Major: He aimed for the stars. But he often hit London.
Mike in NC
@Raven: also, the French Foreign Legion.
Those physicists were designing rockets that were killing (and otherwise terrorizing) civilians willy nilly.
If there is hope to be gleaned in this story, it’s here:
From an old white dude who was 15 when his family arrived in this country.
I guess some of the details had to be filled in, but this was a pretty open secret in the 1960s and 70s and frequent theme of popular culture. It is kind of the point of the John LaCarre’s “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” which was a best seller in 1963 (yes that was the British MI-6, but they did not do anything we did not do – Richard Burton at his best in the1965 film of the same name). In that story the German double agent Mundt is an ex-Nazi (of course the Russians and Stazi recruited him a well – but then again they never pretended to be the good guys – except they did as LaCarre tells the story). See also the brilliant 1970s “Running Man” with Dustin Hoffman and Lawrence Oiver (although you will never be happy in a dentist’s office again). It is always a surprise because even with the full “Alec” on American History, the version taught is very sanitized, which is very unfortunate because, as Paul Fussell wrote at the end of “Wartime,” his long literary essay on WWII experience as successor to “Great War and Modern Memory,” quoting the Norman Mailer, “you use the word “shit” so you can use the word “noble,” and you refuse to ignore the stupidity and barbarism and ignobility and poltroonery filfth so that the…(Eisenhower’s statement he wrote on evening of June 5 for release if the June 6 invasion had failed – the “noble”)…”will flash out as bright signal in a dark time.”
The Other Chuck
Every professional in Germany during the Third Reich was a Nazi — membership was required to remain employed. Yes, we brought over some people who should have been in the dock in Nuremberg, but a lot of the other scientists were by and large guilty only of not fleeing the country while evil powers were running it.
Heck, we actually had ex-nazis running the civil service in postwar Germany. Compare that to the blanket purges in the de-Baathification program of Iraq and you tell me which one worked out.
The bizarre thing about it is that rocket science is fairly straightforward, if complicated. But in things where you have to trust what they are doing and saying and you might not know what that is… how can you do that with an unrepentant, coddled, Nazi?
Say, wasn’t President Muffley’s chief science advisor also an ex-Nazi?
Those sound like the kinds of questions a Commie would ask.
The Other Chuck
@mdblanche: Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!
The character wasn’t originally in a wheelchair. Sellers was also going to play Major Kong, but broke his leg getting into the B-52 set, so in came Slim Pickens and the rest is history … or did it start as farce this time?
@schrodinger’s cat: We brought over thousands of physicists and aeronautical scientists. Most of them ended up in Huntsville, AL and formed the nucleus of what became NASA and the space program.
You could almost say that as we let the Russians advance on Berlin, we wanted to get to Pennemunde first. We wanted those scientists more.
So most people know that our entire space program was built by the good folks from Peenemunde. What most people don’t know was that shortly after the death of Werner Von Braun the rest of his crew was deported as ‘undesirable’. By that time we had our own scientists that had learned everything from the Germans and built from it. So we not only laid down with the Nazi war machine we pissed all over them and somehow pretended to be morally upright when we had used them up.
@Anne Laurie: I still think this was a very open secret. When I was growing up, my admittedly left-leaning family often spoke of the use of former Nazis by the CIA. There was absolutely no degree of depravity that our government would not sink to in the effort to defeat communism.
Substitute the word “Nazi” with any other hostile regime you can think of and you’ve pretty much summed up American foreign policy in the 20th and 21st centuries.
A story that many people may not know; I know it because I worked at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Richard Courant was a German Jewish mathematician. He fought in the First World War and was decorated. He viewed himself as more German than Jewish. After the war, when he returned to his mathematical studies and research he worked with partial differential equations and associated processes. He credited with founding mathematical physics and wrote a definitive text in the field.
When Hitler came to power, Courant’s work was branded Jewish science. As many copies of his books as could be found were destroyed. Later during the war, as the Germans were researching nuclear energy and rocketry, the science researchers found they NEEDED Courant’s book. Copies of it had to found in England and smuggled back into Germany.
ETA: Warren Weaver (investor and financial maven) helped to bring Courant to the US at the end of the 1930s. He tried to find Courant a job at most of the major universities but Courant was Jewish… Weaver was able to convince NYU to hire him and then start a research institute with Courant as its head.
Howard Beale IV
@Major Major Major Major: You too can be great hero/once you learn how to count backwards to zero/In English, or German-I know how to count down…und I’m learning Chinese, says Wernher Von Braun
@The Other Chuck: IIRC when filming the last scene Sellers forgot he was supposed to be in a wheelchair and when he accidentally got up he ad-libbed the I can walk! line.
I would have been less troubled by the principle of hiring Nazis and other WWII fascists if it had simply been about the horror of preserving and working with these villains.
However much of US foreign policy was then dedicated in the post-war era to treating third-worlders like the hired Nazis and assorted fascists treated their hated minorities — in fact, we helped the Nazis and fascists to train a new generation of Latin American fascists whom we then paid and hired and armed to carry out death squad slaughter and sub-fascist tyrannies throughout the hemisphere.
We didn’t just hire Nazis and fascists — we embraced their methods and goals.
@sherparick: Is it safe?
(You mean Marathon Man I presume?)
Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN)
Uhm, yeah they did. A lot of people never found their claims to be even vaguely credible, but they most certainly presented themselves as the good guys.
Is Bob in Portland off sulking? Because he was linking to the same facts two or three weeks ago. Maybe longer, I just started reading him back then.
Why no “Hat tip to valued commenter BiP”?
@catclub: BiP is a valued commenter?
@srv: And we were fighting the war we were fighting, not the war that had already been fought. The efforts we made we not really against “communism” per se, but communism as practiced by Stalin and Mao, communism that was brutual, ruthless and more than a bit prone to subjugating people and countries. See Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, etc. No, utilizing Nazis who had committed war crimes was not right, but the Soviets of the mid-40s through the 70s were indeed a threat to world and brutally repressed millions and millions of people. Just because the US blundered in falling into the Vietnam quagmire doesn’t change that fact.
for anyone with an interest in this topic, and other US “mis-deeds” and dirty tricks of the 1950’s, I just began reading “The Brothers – John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and their secret world war” by Stephen Kinzer, published 2013.
Gin & Tonic
@catclub: Bob’s been riding this horse for a *very* long time.
I’m now eagerly awaiting next week’s breaking new report from the NYT about the CIA’s bungled attempt to invade Cuba.
@catclub: Some commenters are more equal than others in FP’ers eyes.
@srv: The word “valued” does have meaning, you know.
In all fairness, after WWII, you could pick up a slightly used Nazi for a song.
Deals like that don’t last long.
Ah, this reminds me of the good ol’ days of listening to KPFK late night in the early ’90s while doing college homework. Operation Paperclip!
SO THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES WERE TRUE!!
Because he’s the Nazi America deserves, but not the one it needs right now.
A friend’s father was a “Nazi” which means he was a professional so he was required to join the party. No doubt people who were spies were most likely more seriously involved in military/government but all Nazi party members were not running death camps or even involved in work related to war.
Also Communist party members were not all in the KGB.
I like the part where the CIA declined to comment for this article. Isn’t that convenient, now that all the Nazis our country hid are deceased, and we only belatedly find out the sordid truth. Any public building, airport etc. that was named after Hoover or Dulles should be renamed. The more we learn about them, the more we realize what loathsome, power-abusing, despicable characters they were.
Not all, not yet.
… and to some extent, right after the war ended, and even during. One of the more revealing lines in the article:
I think there was a big chunk of the U.S. establishment that found World War Two an irritating digression from what the “real” fight should be, against communism and the left. The labeling of Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteers as “premature anti-fascists” (no one has ever had to worry about being labeled a “premature anti-communist”) and all the shit they were given when they returned from Spain is the best known example, but it continued into the actual war and bled over into Hoover’s politicking. When the OSS was looking for contacts and proxies in Europe, the international brigade types were the logical choice (they were the bulk of the resistance movements), but Hoover seized the opportunity to attack his rival agency as dangerously communist, and spent the entire war hammering away on that point, which is part of the reason it was closed in 1945. After the war, of course, that sentiment eventually went completely mainstream in the form of the Second Red Scare.
(Doesn’t seem like an accident that both Red Scares took place so soon after a world war; they tried to prolong/revive war hysteria and channel it onto the “real” enemies that we “should” have been fighting all along).
The archives of the National Review will show that support for fascism remained quite okay in the fifties as long as it was aimed at those nice, tame fascists who didn’t turn against the West (Hitler and Mussolini, bad, but Franco and Salazar, totally okay). Even though the images of the Holocaust started making an impact right after the war, I feel like the modern consensus where “fascism” is basically another word for “bad, very bad, worst bad ever” didn’t form until some time after the war was over, as part of the general process of World War Two turning from memory into epic myth.
@Mnemosyne: That murdering pig Von Braun should have been hanged – he was solely responsible for hundreds of British deaths and fully supported the killing of Jews in his rocket production facility. Further, he was a Nazi and supported Hitler and the war. A war criminal that we supported and made into a hero – the USSR was not the danger we made it out to be and even if it was, that does not excuse our using people that committed mass murder. Some of the supporting comments by BJ’ers here are sick.
I have to say, despite everything I just said – Operation Paperclip isn’t even in the top fifty of the worst things we did during the Cold War. Yes, we recruited a few Nazis to help us build rockets and gather intelligence (after squashing their regime). Yes, it was bad – I’d have preferred to see them all tried and convicted, although as someone pointed out above, a complete and total denazification was never in the cards (far too many people had joined the party just to get ahead, the kind we needed just to keep the lights on and the trains running). Far worse, though, were all the other racist, genocidal and autocratic regimes we supported, kept on life support, sometimes even created in the name of anticommunism even as they were committing their atrocities.
For that matter – ex-Nazis to train Latin American right wingers? Was it really that much of a thing? We’d been cozying up to Latin strongmen long before fascism, we’d have kept on doing it with or without fascism, and I’m sure we had all the connections we needed down there without any help from the ex-Nazis. Which isn’t to say we didn’t work with them, but I thought it was incidental: “hey, the pet dictator we’ve been working with all this time has a new underling who used to be a Nazi – sure, we’ll work with him too!” rather than “all right, Nazis, we need friendly regimes south of the border, and you’re going to build them for us!”
Minor war crimes [love the quotes around that] …….I wonder what the hell that means?
Perhaps the governments using these guys should have called them “war misdemeanors”?
@El Cid: Bingo.
Wasn’t that so much as helping them find shelter, and sometimes sinecure, with those regimes.
@srv: True enough.
There’s been a couple books on my shelf — Blowback by Christopher Simpson and The Beast Reawakens by Martin Lee — since the 1990’s that have a lot to say on this subject.
Of course, U.S. support for the Ukraine coup — it’s success largely due to the violent participation of the neo-Nazi Svoboda and Pravy Sector political organizations — show that old habits die hard, both for us and them. Unfortunately there wasn’t much notice in the U.S. media (or blogs like Balloon Juice) a week or so ago when far-right protestors demanding recognition of the Nazi-allied Ukrainian Insurgent Army rioted in the streets of Kiev.
Gin & Tonic
@BobS: Of course, U.S. support for the Ukraine coup — it’s success largely due to the violent participation of the neo-Nazi Svoboda and Pravy Sector political organizations — show that old habits die hard
Certainly you are aware that parliamentary elections were held on Sunday, and that both Svoboda and Pravy Sektor were turfed out, neither getting the requisite 5% support.
Gin & Tonic
@Gin & Tonic: Missed a closing em tag. Oops.
@Gin & Tonic: Which means exactly what with respect to the fact their participation was integral to the success of the coup?
Gin & Tonic
@BobS: If you’re going to call what took place in February a “coup” then we probably don’t have much on which to continue a discussion. The President at that time packed up and fled the country in the dead of night.
My point was that Svoboda and Pravy Sektor were loud and visible, but far from “integral.” The majority of the Ukrainian people supported, and continue to support, a relatively moderate pro-EU government. The rightists were and are marginal, as has been borne out in two elections held since Yanukovych and his coterie fled. The Poroshenko and Yatseniuk factions continue to garner overwhelming support. So you wave the Nazi boogeymen flag all you want to scare the kiddies – in Ukraine people are voting, fighting and in some cases dying just to join the EU.
Take a look at these election results showing the evolution of pro-EU (orange) sentiment over the last two years.
@jc: “I like the part where the CIA declined to comment for this article” – Who has less to do – the head of the CIA Public Relations Department or the Maytag Repairman?
@Gin & Tonic: If you aren’t going to call what occurred in February (under the watchful eye and with the generous financial and logistical support of the U.S government) a coup you have a somewhat skewed comprehension of what is or isn’t a constitutionally sanctioned transition of government.
Actually, nothing in your initial comment acknowledged any understanding on your part that the participation of “Svoboda and Pravy Sektor were loud and visible” (I guess that’s one way of characterizing violence and murder). I agree with your “point” that their influence was (and continues to be) disproportionate to their numbers or electoral success. That you continue to insist on using a sanitized vocabulary (“packed up and fled the country in the dead of night”) and trying to sell others on viewing the events in Ukraine through “orange” colored glasses tells me you’re either naive (maybe you’ll catch up in 20, 30, or 60 years when the story is rewritten in the NY Times) or mendacious and that “we probably don’t have much on which to continue a discussion”.
Gin & Tonic
@BobS: Yanukovych, according to widely-disseminated video, boarded a helicopter in the darkness of night and left the country, along with lots of his belongings and many from his coterie. How is “fled the country in the dead of night” either inaccurate or “sanitized”? He left the country, that is inarguable. That left a constitutional vacuum. The duly-elected parliament, which remained in place throughout, acted to fill that vacuum.
My views on the situation are not informed by any accounts in the western press, but rather by the time I’ve spent in the country observing events and by the numerous contacts I have there, in many areas and at all levels, charitable/humanitarian, clerical, political and military.
@Gin & Tonic: So it’s mendacious.
For a longer account of von Braun’s involvement in slave labor (and the atrocities that accompanied it), see Wayne Biddle’s
excellent book Dark Side of the Moon: Wernher von Braun, the Third Reich, and the Space Race (W. W. Norton and Company, 2009, ISBN 978-0-393-05910-6).
Gin & Tonic
@BobS: I eagerly await your evidence of my lies.
@Gin & Tonic: That you’re as well-informed as you claim to be and yet repeatedly pretend Yanukovych left the country for what? — a spur of the moment extended vacation to Russia? — while failing to mention the violence and threats of violence by the ultra-right that surrounded his leaving the country is at best a half-truth. Similarly, your purposely downplaying the significant role (and subsequent rewards in the form of appointments to multiple cabinet ministries) Svoboda and Pravy Sector played (well beyond being “loud and visible”) is also all the evidence I need of your mendacity. No one as familiar as you claim to be could possibly be as ignorant as you pretend to be that the overthrow of the government (as well as the subsequent installation of the new government) was illegal, i.e. a coup, or that it wouldn’t have occurred as it did without the complicity of the neo-Nazis (as well as the U.S. government, demonstrating it’s ongoing alliance with “the Nazi boogeymen” when it’s convenient to do so).
Not really a surprise, as the United States under Barack Obama continues to be the premiere global organization promoting far right and fascist movements around the world, simply because they happen to oppose the rivals of the U.S. working class, as in the coup in Kiev.
@AA+ Bonds: LOL, you’re a fucking idiot.